Archive by Author | Paul Casey

My Tamagotchi spawned a Software Defined Future

Reading through the results of our Survey on Software Defined, it is apparent that people have different perspectives around what the real benefits of ‘Software Defined’ are. That’s no surprise as the term is as confused, abused and overused as Cloud was. So where did Software Defined (SD) come from, where is it heading, and what will it deliver in term of benefits?

While the term Software Defined was still some 15 years away from being coined, I like to think ‘Software Defined’ inadvertently started with the launch of the child’s toy Tamagotchi way back in 1996. The point is, the small, plastic object was a mere platform for the pixelated Software Defined, duck like, alien pet thing. You could not touch this SD pet, but you knew it was there and the more you looked after it with Software Defined food, snacks, tidied up it’s software poops – the more it could do. Don’t look after it and the thing experienced a virtual death…That was not game over fortunately, as you could then re-spawn a new life at the touch of a button. While this is normal practice with toys, what is a bit worrying was that the creator of Tamagotchi designed the toy as a way of teaching teenage girls how to look after children….

Today, we have moved on to all manner of IT components being defined and delivered as software, then managed by intelligent software. This is what the term Software defined means to most people today. So the bigger picture or true potential of SD is all about automating IT and self-service portals right? WRONG! That’s a bit like comparing the scope of the Tamagotchi from ‘96 with today’s games that leverage an Oculus Rift headset….

SD is about so much more than that for the companies who can see the bigger picture. Those companies are leveraging Software Defined to streamline the way they deliver business services, sure they are removing cost from and streamlining IT operations, but by connecting deep into the business and development functions of the organisation, they are shortening the path between their customers or users and service delivery.

In this scenario, being Software Defined means offering a portfolio of (software) pre-defined business services, delivered in the form required by the requestor…either delivering IaaS, PaaS or other services on a physical IT platform… defined, delivered and managed by software…leveraging all of those lovely software defined, Compute, Networks and Storage elements.  On demand, dynamic, to a known state and elastic.

The Companies making this change aim to get products to market faster, reducing the cost of service delivery and being more agile than their competition in reacting to business change and market and customer demands.

This is not the same as using Software Defined technologies to deliver just IT’s role better, faster and cheaper from a self-service IT portal. It’s about mapping out the path from initiation to delivery of business services, applications, SD Infrastructure components and then automating the said delivery through software tools. Once the service is delivered, it’s then managed by software. Software developed to understand the bigger picture and react to changes to ensure the defined service availability criteria are met.

Clearly this brings significant benefits and extends some way beyond the typical role of IT today. SD enables the situation where delivery of the shortest path necessitates blurring the lines between the Business Lines and IT – the situation that enables DevOps to exist; that Supports Agile IT, Sprints and the things associated to the second, faster gearing of two Speed IT. These SD projects deliver big benefits across the business, but the Software defined technology is but one part of the transformation required. This sort of gear change involves rethinking the role of IT and way IT services are delivered… impacting the Technology, Processes and the People.

These are exciting and changing times for Computacenter and our customers.

In the clouds or in the sand – where is your head at?

I spend a lot of time flying, and I mean a LOT. So much so, that the new next door neighbours didn’t question my wife when she told them I was a trolley dolly for Easyjet  and that was why I left the house just after 05.00 so often. Now there are clearly a lot of downsides to living in Edinburgh and having your main customers and the team ‘down sarf’. The days can be long and the early starts don’t do a lot for your family life, but I find there are a few upsides. Like that little window of opportunity between boarding and 35,000 ft. where all portable devices are switched off,  when I  could chose to;

  •  Sleep. Nah, I’ll sleep when I’m dead thanks.
  • Squint out the corner of my eye at the X-rated gardening book seat 14B is reading (50 sheds of grey?) –Emmmm NO!
  • Create,  contemplate and plan with back to basics pen and paper – Yep.  I love this time, it allows me to step back, stop consuming information and use the time to reflect and contemplate about our Cloud Strategy, our customers and how the market might look in the future.

So when I’m travelling, besides visiting my favourite city that is LDN, I get to see a lot of other really nice places thanks to my role. In fact before I headed to LHR on Monday this week, I had just arrived back last night from the Computacenter Vendor Golf Challenge in La Manga, Spain. Top quality food, wine, and lodgings… but more than that, the chance to spend a few days on some of the best golf courses with some of the biggest hitters  in the UK IT market.  It’s a pretty unique event, 16 vendor teams, a lot of them who are the best of enemies by day, but who all share a common bond in that they are all major, and very important  partners of Computacenter.  So besides discussing who is playing the best golf or has the most suspect handicap, we talk a lot about the IT market.

Due to my role, Cloud is always the order of the day and the one thing  I think every vendor agrees with is that Cloud is having and will continue to have, a significant impact on the IT market we all know and love, for customers, vendors and service providers alike. The arms race that is the public Cloud market will impact us all for sure if we don’t evolve, as the buyer changes and customer shifts from purchasing hardware and perpetual software licenses,  to consuming what was complex IT, as a service. A service where the badge on the technology  is less relevant, and service levels, cost and functionality are king. The IT market is going through a BIG transformation, probably more so than at any other time in my 25+ years in IT.

It was for one of our key partners, EMC that I agreed to sit on a panel at a media only session recently at EMC forum, discussing the subject of IT Transformation. I was talking about how organisations contemplating IT transformation in the last 18 months have a new dimension to contemplate with Cloud and the private and public ‘as a service’ market now becoming a very viable service delivery model. I was describing that by contemplating the shift to consuming IT as a service, the transformation was as much about transforming IT folks as it was about technology – where people have to be knowledgeable  in service, IT costs, IT process, understanding the business  and a whole lot more, on top of getting to grips with not just one area, but every layer of technology as Infrastructure converges.

Now I’m not proposing that cloud technology will replace traditional IT, they will co-exist for sure, but Cloud computing will have a big impact on many people and it’s time to think about how you might be impacted, and how you need to transform. For many, the days of making a career out of knowing a single layer of technology or shipping MORE storage are numbered. Far too many people, including many within Computacenter  who are used to being treated as a highly valuable IT asset by their employer are going to have to evolve or risk being marginalised by market that could bypass them.  It’s important to take time out from keeping the lights on, get your head out of the sand  at least spend some time contemplating in the Clouds.

Paul.